Friday, July 20, 2018

Gus Spenos It's Lovin' I Guarantee

Gus Spenos
It's Lovin' I Guarantee

Gus Spenos is a sax-playing bluesman who plays and sings in the vein of the great blues shouters while also being a top neurologist in Indianapolis. This is his latest recording and he recorded it in Hoboken with a terrific big band that includes Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and Cecil Brooks III on drums. The rest of the rhythm section also includes Brandon McCune on keyboards and Brad Williams on guitar. Others present include Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, Bruce Williams on alto sax, and Jason Marshall on baritone sax. These gentleman along with Gordon, McCune and Williams are heard on solos throughout.

Spenos and his collaborator, Collin DeJoseph, wrote 4 originals and there are 9 covers here. DeJoseph who also played piano did the arrangements. This is solid jump blues that is wonderfully played with plenty of hot horn solos and tight rocking grooves. The originals such as the title track and "Every Tic's Got a Toc," are solid originals in the jump blues tradition while songs covered are not songs that have been covered to death.

Spenos is an adequate, if at times awkward sounding, singer who does invest a lot of spirit in his vocals although he is overshadowed by his inspirations. A the same time, the horns and band are wonderful with Gordon contributing some terrific growling trombone on Jimmy Rushing "Fool's Blues," where the leader takes a one of several terrific booting tenor sax solos here. Guitarist Williams takes a fleet solo on TNT Tribble's "She Walks Right In," followed by Hendrix's blistering trumpet. On Eddie Boyd's "Hush Baby Don't You Cry," Jason Marshall's burly baritone sax is followed by Gordon's gutbucket play while McCune lays down some hot buttered fried soul on the B-3.

Brad Williams opens "Livin' is a Cry" when some T-Bone Walker styled chords and then chords under Spenos tough tenor sax opening on a solid slow original with Gordon's growling obligatos adding plenty to the feel of this performance and is followed by Buddy Johnson's "Lil Dog," a wonderful instrumental that showcases Spenos tenor sax as well as Gordon's gutbucket trombone, Bruce Williams alto sax and Hendrix's sizzling trumpet. Another solid number here is Eddie Mack's "King Loving Daddy." It is a nice jump blues by a lesser known shouter.

The only reservation about this recording is that Spenos is not a compelling singer. However, the excellence of the musical performances here may merit attention from fans of jump blues and classic rhythm'n'blues.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 378) although I have made a few minor changes.

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